Rule #1: Right of Way
In a line up, among the ones going for the wave, the one closest to the peak of the wave simply has the right of way.
Ex: If you’re paddling for a right wave, and a surfer on your left is also paddling for the same right wave, you must let go of that wave.
There are a couple variations to this rule:
When a surfer is riding a wave, don’t try a late takeoff between the whitewater and the surfer. If she makes a cutback she’ll run right into you.
A-Frames or Split Peaks: If there are two surfers are on either side of the peak, they each have the right of way to take off on their respective sides. It’s not generally accepted to take off behind the peak unless there’s nobody on the other side. These surfers should split the peak and go opposite ways.
If a surfer riding a wave gets closed out with an impossible section or wipes out, the next surfer down the line can take off. If you’re a very new beginner I’d hold off on doing this anyway until you have a bit more experience.
If a wave is breaking towards itself (a closeout) and two surfers are taking off at each other, yes both have the right of way but this is a perilous situation and it’s advisable to kick out early to avoid a collision.
Rule #2: Don’t Drop In
This is related to Rule #1. This is probably the most important part of surfing etiquette. Dropping in means that someone with the right of way is either about to take off on a wave or is already riding a wave, and you also take off on the same wave in front of him or her. This blocks his ride down the line, and is extremely annoying, not to mention dangerous. If you are tempted to drop in remember this: no matter how good the wave is, if you drop in on someone you’ll feel like crap, the other surfer will be pissed, and the wave will be ruined for everyone.
Rule #3: Paddling Rules
Some common sense surfing etiquette rules that people don’t seem to realize are important. Don’t paddle straight through the heart of the lineup where people are surfing. Paddle out through the channel where the waves aren’t breaking and people aren’t surfing. Sometimes at spread out beach breaks this is hard, but usually there is a less crowded area to paddle through.
When paddling back out, DO NOT paddle in front of someone riding a wave unless you’re well, well in front of him. You must paddle behind those who are up and riding and take the whitewater hit or duck dive. You’ll appreciate this the next time you’re up on a wave. Sometimes you’ll just end up in a bad spot and won’t be able to paddle behind a surfer. It’s your responsibility to speed paddle to get over the wave and out of his or her way. If you don’t do this, he or she might just run you over!
Rule #4: Don’t Ditch Your Board
This is important, especially when it gets crowded. Always try to maintain control and contact with your board. Surfboards are large, heavy, and hard. If you let your board go flying around, it is going to eventually clock someone in the head. This means if you’re paddling out and a wall of whitewater is coming, you don’t have permission to just throw your board away and dive under. If you throw your board and there is someone paddling out behind you, there is going to be carnage. This is a hard rule for beginners, but if you manage to avoid picking up the habit of throwing your board you will be a MUCH better surfer.
Rule #5: Don’t Snake
“Snaking” is when a surfer paddles around another surfer in order position himself to get the right of way for a wave. He is effectively making a big “S” around a fellow surfer. While not immediately hazardous to your health, this is incredibly annoying. You can’t cut the lineup. Patiently wait your turn. Wave hogs don’t get respect in the water. Also, being a local doesn’t give you permission to ruthlessly snake visitors who are being polite. If they’re not being polite, well…
Rule #6: Beginners: don’t paddle out to the middle of a packed lineup
Beginners should try and go out to a less crowded break. You’ll know you’re in the wrong spot if you get the stink-eye!
Rule #7: Don’t, Don’t, Don’t! be a wave hog
Purely because you can ride all waves, it doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t fight for every single wave. Give a wave, take a wave. Especially stand up paddlers, long-borders and kayaks can catch waves easily, they will leave nothing to the short boarders. so give and take.
Rule #8: Respect the beach
Please don’t litter. Simple as that. Pick up your trash, and if possible try and pick up a few bits of trash before you leave the beach even if it’s not yours.
Rule #9: Drive responsibly
The local people who live near the beaches deserve your respect, so drive responsibly.
Rule #10: If you mess up
In case you mess up or accidentally drop in or mess up someone Else’s wave, a super quick apology is best, Don’t have to beg at their feet, just apologize.
Most surfing etiquette are just common sense, don’t worry about remembering too many rules, very soon these will become your second nature.
Don’t forget to have fun in the water!